Thursday, October 22, 2015

Joannah Whitney Rows Far

Story and photos by Laila Soleimani

Joannah Whitney is an avid rower. She’s a regular participant in our Universal Access Program as she has been rowing on the Connecticut River for the last three seasons with Holyoke Rows. Formerly an archaeologist before a diagnosis of MS, she’s someone who loves being out in the natural world, particularly on the open water. During the regular rowing season, from May-October, Joannah is on the water every week, without question.

I first met Joannah this past August.  Looking very comfortable and relaxed on the water, she smiled from ear to ear, when I asked her to pose for a photo. She has that same jovial smile when I ask her to tell me what she loves about the rowing program. “Over the course of the season I get to see the trees change, I get to see the water level rising and lowering. I love seeing eagles, herons, cormorants, or other animals on the banks, or in the water. I love the feeling of putting my oars in the water, pulling against it for part of the stroke, then feeling the scull glide as I reach forward to start the next stroke.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Testing New Adaptive Paddling Equipment

This month, DCR's Universal Access Program staff have been testing out some new adaptive equipment for next year. It's been a treat to get out into the fall landscape!

We tested a canoe paddle modification we made based on a recommendation from AccesSport America. Bending the paddle in two spots keeps hands low for those who have trouble raising their arms. We found this modification worked in both bow and stern. Adding hand supports from Creating Ability made it possible to steer. Our only concern is the paddle could be lighter!

We also tested new kayaking equipment from Creating Ability including the kayak chariot, transfer bench and paddle pivot.

The kayak chariot makes pushing and pulling boats in and of the water with passengers much easier and takes a lot of strain off staff. We found a little bit of back bend is still required, but very little effort to move loaded kayaks. Empty kayaks can be placed on the big-wheeled chariot, then quickly hooked into place with straps. A small stepstool is required at the bow to level the kayak for loading.